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Panellets | Catalan Almond Cookies

Updated: Dec 24, 2020


Panellet variations from right to left: pine nuts, coffee, coconut, chocolate with hazlenut

Panellets

I moved into the house with Rosa on Halloween day, and from the moment I arrived the house was filled with all kinds of wonderful smells. She was baking a mix of different cookies which I had never seen before. I quickly learned that they were variations of something called panellets. Because they became one of our first shared food memories in the house together, they will always hold a bit of a special place in our hearts and lives. But, that is not why you should try them. I have made variations on panellets for all kinds of audiences and food related presentations, and served them to many hundreds of people over the last few years. They are always an absolute smash hit. Everyone always loves them.

So, what are they?

Panellets are soft, mildly sweet, extremely addictive little cookies that have become popular throughout much of Spain, though they originated in Catalonia. They go back to at least the 1700’s, and at least in modern times are typically made and eaten on Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day), on November 1st. They are so good, so easy to make, and so fun to share, that you will want to make them year-round – we certainly do.

The classic, traditional panellets were made from a marzipan base, which is not only expensive, but extremely sweet and rich. Though the marzipan versions remain popular and are still widely sold, most home cooks these days typically use boiled potato or sweet potato mixed with almond meal as a base. The potato base cuts the richness and sweetness a little bit, along wish insuring a wonderfully moist, slightly chewy texture. We pretty much always use regular russet potatoes in our house, because we love the results we get with them. Try using sweet potato, though, if you prefer.

Kids love helping to make the dough and to form the panellets, so get the whole family involved!

Pine nuts adorn the most popular variety of panellets, and the base recipe below follows the technique for the pine nut covered version. There are many other popular versions, but all use the same potato, sugar, and almond flour base. Below the main recipe, I have included 3 other quick variations, flavored with coconut, coffee, and chocolate. Other common variants include a dulce de membrillo (quince paste) stuffed panellet, and a slivered almond coating instead of the pine nut coating.

Ingredients

1 russet potato, about 7 oz (200g), whole, skin on

500g almond flour

500g sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup pine nuts

1 egg, beaten


For egg wash before baking

1 egg, beaten

1. In a small pot, cover the potato with cold water, and bring to a boil on high heat. When boiling, lower heat to gently simmer, and cook until soft all the way through when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer. When cooked, drain and let cool. When cooled, peel the potato and mash until smooth.


2. Mix the sugar, salt, and almond flour together. Add the potato, kneading with your hands, and when well combined, add the egg, kneading until you get a very smooth, even mixture.


3. Pour the pine nuts into a bowl. Scoop out 1 to 2 Tbsp of the dough at a time, roll into a ball, and gently press and roll in the pine nuts to make them stick to the ball. Place the ball on a cookie sheet, and repeat, making more pine nut crusted balls until all the dough is gone.

Note: Traditionally, the panellets get completely coated with pine nuts, but in my house, we usually coat half of the sphere, and then press the other side slightly down to give a flat base. You get plenty of pine nuts in each bite and save a little money on an expensive ingredient.

4. Brush the panellets with the egg wash, then bake in a preheated 350˚F oven until lightly browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before handling. They’re ok the same day, but I think they are at their very best the day after they are made. They will keep quite well for at least 4 or 5 days in a covered container if you can hide them well enough.

Variations:

For each of these variations, use the same base dough recipe described in the procedure above. The amounts below are based on 500g of almond flour. I recommend that you make one large batch of dough as a base, and divide it up to make some or all of the different variations discussed. Just be sure to remember to scale the amounts to the amount of dough you are using for each variant.

Coconut Panellets

Mix in 125g of unsweetened, shredded, dried coconut to the base after step 2 in the procedure.

To shape the panellets, scoop out 1 to 2 Tbsp of the dough, form into a ball, and pinch one side to form into a pyramid like shape. Brush with egg wash before baking.

Chocolate Panellets

Mix in 50g of unsweetened cocoa powder to the the base after step 2 in the procedure.

To shape the panellets, scoop out 1 to Tbsp of dough, form into a ball, and press one blanched (peeled) hazelnut into the top of the ball, while flattening the base of the cookie a little. Do NOT egg wash

Coffee Panellets

Mix in 2½ – 3½ Tbsp (to taste) of ground, instant coffee, to the base after step 2 in the procedure.

Shaping the coffee panellets

To shape the panellets, scoop out 1 to 2 Tbsp of the dough, form into an oval shape, flatten the bottom slightly, and then use a butter knife to make a small slit on top. This will give them the shape of coffee beans. Do NOT egg wash. After baking, dust with a little bit of powdered sugar.



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